I want to talk to you about two stories that don’t seem to be related, but are forever intertwined. Both involve September 11th. Both had a deep and abiding affect on me as a person.
Eleven years ago was a day that no one will ever forget. On September 11, 2001, 19 evil men boarded four airplanes filled with a total of 246 passengers. Two were flown into the World Trade Centers in New York City killing all on board and causing the collapse of the towers. 2,606 people in the towers, police and firefighters died. Another was flown into the Pentagon outside of Washington DC killing all on board and 125 service people and civilians. The last plane was heroically crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all on board, but saving untold lives. Before lunchtime 2.977 innocent people lost their lives…and our country lost its innocence. We, as a nation, never thought that anyone would ever attack us again on our own soil. We were wrong.
In eleven years we have learned much and learned very little. America has become a nation afraid to “offend”, and this fear puts us at risk. At the same time, we are also a nation that allows people to worship as they wish, meaning that those who attacked us, extreme Muslims, must under our Constitution, be allowed to worship and speak freely. It is a condrum that seems to make little sense.
The other story involves a small boy. He boarded a school bus on a bright, sunny September morning and headed to his school for his second week of second grade. He was as sunny and bright as that beautiful morning. Just a few short hours later he came bounding off that same school bus, ran up to his waiting mother, so excited he didn’t notice her red rimmed eyes and sad face. “Momma, momma guess what?” he said jumping into her waiting arms. She pulled herself together and smiled… “What, sweetie boy?” “We got out of school early today!” “I know sweetie.” “Ya know why?” No, tell me” she answered, knowing full well the reason. “Because it’s my birthday!!” That mom didn’t have the heart to tell him that schools closed because of a terrorist attack on the US. That mom was me, and that little boy was my son. On September 11, 2001 he turned 7 years old. My innocence may have died that day, but I wasn’t going to let it kill my son’s.
Eighteen years ago, September 11th was the best day of my life. My son, Eric as born very early in the morning, and I realized one of the main reasons why God put me on this earth. When I first held him in my arms I looked in those bright blue eyes and knew what my purpose on this earth was… to be his, and later his sister’s, mother. He has always been a thoughtful child. Despite the terrible events of his birthday, which we shielded from him as long as we could, his first thought on that first Christmas after the attacks was for the children who lost parents. The next year as an 8 year old, he announced that instead of having a somber day we should celebrate life instead.
In eighteen years my son has grown to be an amazing young man. He is tall, thin, dark haired and blue eyed and handsome. He earned his academic letter as a high school sophomore. He ran on the varsity track team and hold a part time with a job. Now, he is a college freshman. He is intelligent and has a quick wit. It takes a lot to upst him. He is a kind and loving big brother and rarely fights with his younger sister. He loves animals and the environment… not in a rabid tree hugging way, but a realistic one that leaves room for people to live and thrive while finding ways to lessen our impact on God’s world. He’s spent years helping at church and in the community, and I know that he has a good solid faith to back up the head on his shoulders. I’m always told that he is a great kid, smart, great sense of humor, loving, polite and helpful: “I just love your son!”. I do too, and recognize the great gift I was given. His early experieence taught him to make the best of bad situations.
September 11th will always be a day of mixed emotions, and two stories intertwined in optimism and sadness, somberness and love.
Image courtesy of Kevinalbania